Section: Arts

The Rings of Power brings new and old elements to Tolkien

When The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was announced for Amazon Prime Video, some fans were initially skeptical, lamenting that it would just be a Game of Thrones rip-off set in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) universe. The general consensus seemed to be that the LOTR universe didn’t need a HBO-style drama to spark intrigue in its massive mythology. Not only was perversion a worry amongst fans, but also a fear of poor execution. “The Hobbit” and its sequels had mixed reviews from fans, with most anger being directed at the departure from the source material. With the shadow of mixed reviews from “The Hobbit” and the Oscar-winning powerhouse that the original LOTR trilogy represented, as well as comparisons to Game of Thrones, the series appears to have an immense challenge of expectations ahead of it.

The Rings of Power’s first three episodes impress viewers with their massive spectacle. The near $1 billion budget for the series was put to work, and no expense was spared on the visual effects. The soaring mountains and Hobbit-laden fields are impressive on their own, but the combination of these visuals and the excellent overtures composed by Bear Mcreary and Howard Shore turn an already-beautiful Middle-earth setting into a jaw-dropping masterclass of sensory worldbuilding. 

Although The Rings of Power creates a stunning rendition of Middle-earth that has rarely been seen before, the series loses much of its clout in the writing of its characters. Using known characters alongside new ones will always prove challenging, yet there are certain storylines within the first three episodes that appear inconsequential to the broader arc of the series. One plotline, for instance, seeks to ground viewers in problems faced by the normal denizens of the region. However this was meant to be viewed, it comes off as rather dull and carries little intrigue, most of the drama coming from an outside force and not the main characters within the plotline. While it can be important to integrate plotlines that involve average people, this specific one was borderline uninteresting. 

The strengths of the show lie in the main heroine: Galadriel. Cate Blanchett’s masterful performance as the sage Elven queen in the original trilogy is the antithesis of Morfydd Clark’s portrayal of a young Galadriel in this series. Here, we see a character who has not engaged in the hallowed practices of the Rings; instead we see one who is driven by revenge and the desire to honor her people. While her story is a cliché, that does not detract from the entertainment factor she provides. Her skill with a sword is matched only by her desire to achieve her goals, and this makes her a compelling character to watch. While the diplomatic drama of Elrond and the dwarves — as well as Arondir fighting the hordes of orcs — provides great fun, Galadriel is the star of the show. 

The series is far from perfect, with numerous dry spells of uninteresting dialogue that rely too heavily on the visual aspect of Middle-earth, yet it stands in a peculiar position that (if executed correctly) may allow an epic, fantastic story to emerge. The emphasis on visual storytelling is impressive, and an eight-hour-long series allows for more storytelling than a three-hour-long movie can. If the series can improve on the plot and dialogue, there is a chance that it will become an excellent instrument for storytelling in the Tolkien world. Fans of Game of Thrones will likely not find morally dubious characters nor surprising deaths in this series, but what they may find is a rewarding tale of heroism and the forces of good duking it out with the darkest agents of evil.

Episodes come out weekly on Amazon Prime, and the series will be completely released by Oct. 14, 2022.

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